Okay, maybe it is just a little bit about the buckle, but in all honestly- it’s that and so much more.
Since I’ve known what an ultra run was, I’ve wanted to do one. Boom-just like that. There has been only one other thing that really gripped me that way-that longing, that yearning to achieve-and that was flying. I didn’t stop to ask why I wanted to fly, but the sky was there, other planes were there, and I knew at age 4 that if someone was indeed flying those planes over my house, I could fly one, too.
So I did.
Small digression aside, I think it’s my nature to run, to wander, to fly. There’s something in the wandering that has always appealed to me. As a child I was always dreaming of escape, lying in the backyard grass watching planes overhead and knowing I would someday take off in one myself, as the pilot.
I constantly drove my mother insane in early elementary school when I decided (frequently) to take the long, meandering way home from an already long school day. Sometimes I would add an extra hour to my walk home, just because I could. I loved the adventure, and the solitude, and studying the way the streets curved. I loved looking at the houses. Never content with the same way home day after day, the new routes were exciting to me. Of course, my mother didn’t feel the same way. Fraught with worry, I would often see her frazzled and harried face speed walking down the street, ready to grab me and drag me home.
Other times I would stand at the end of our driveway and stare at the Superstition Mountains to the east, and wonder how long it would take me to walk there. Those mountains beckoned, all the time. I was always aware of their presence, and I always wanted to get there. Any and all efforts were immediately thwarted by my mother, who, having no sense of adventure, forbid her 8 year-old daughter from setting out to walk to mountains that were at most 50 miles away from the house. Spoilsport.
So when I first heard about this beast called an ultra-marathon, I was immediately smitten. I was running with a friend who had actually completed a few, and did pretty well. Now, unlike me, she had actual running talent. But when I asked her about running an ultra, I heard the glorious words “You don’t HAVE to be fast for an ultra. If you can run a marathon, you can run an ultra. It’s all mental after that, and really, it’s pretty much all pain management after 50 miles.”
I was sold.
Really, when I stop to think about why I want to do an ultra, I’m fairly certain there is no one answer. Actually, there is one BIG answer; an amalgam of smaller answers and reasons all rolled into one. Because it’s there. Because people do them, and I can, too. But let’s break it down.
I want to run, I love to run, and I have always been about “far.” I don’t think I have the genetic capability to go fast, but I can go far. I love the mental aspect of an ultra, how it requires patience, and self-discipline, and more patience.
I want to run it because I’m honestly a little afraid. I’m afraid of the pain, and afraid of being alone with my thoughts. But that’s also precisely why I’m also drawn to doing just that. I want to have the opportunity to push myself mentally farther than I have ever gone in my life. To work through those demons in the recesses of my psyche, telling me I can’t. I want to annihilate that fear of the dark, both mental and physical. Because to face that fear, and get over it, I have to run right through it.
I want to run it because it’s difficult. I will be a mess both physically and mentally, and that’s okay. I have to get there. Again, I have to run through it.
I want to run it because it’s finally okay for me to wander. That longing I had as a child is still there. I want to wander, to run, and to fly. But this time it’s different. I feel secure enough to let the people close to me see me at my weakest. I feel content that although I’m wandering, I know exactly where I’m going, and where I’m supposed to be. I know what makes me happy, and instead of wanting to fly away, I want to fly and wander with those who love and support me. I want to enjoy the journey with those who understand. I think most ultra runners understand.
Because running an ultra, well, running in general, is kind of like driving. Some prefer to get from point A to point B on the interstate, making good time, not caring about much else. Some like to take the back roads. But like driving on old Route 66, my running isn’t always about making good time. My running isn’t interstate, it’s winding mountain roads: Sometimes harrowing, mostly meandering, and always stopping to appreciate the view.